Worship is our response when we see God. But closely connected with this definition are a number of spiritual concepts. Last week we examined briefly three of them – service, praise, and humility. In and of themselves these three are not worship but they are often found in conjunction with worship. It is wrong to conflate them with worship and I will speak more to that later but it is not wrong to associate them with worship. Today I want to give an additional three connected concepts.
The fourth is the idea that there is only one God. This is foundational to the Christian but it cannot be overlooked. For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34.14) There is no point in intricately discussing worship if we do not realize all of this must be directed at Jehovah God alone. The very first of the Ten Commandments says this, and it is repeated more times than I can count throughout the Word of God.
The fifth connection point is music. There is much I want to say here but I plan an extensive series of blog posts on music later this year and next. For the moment let me just say that music does not equal worship. Entirely too many Christians in our day think it does, and even those who give lip service that it does not still structure their approach to church as if it does. It is a terrible insult to the concept of worship to equate it simply with music.
Having said that, it is also true that there are two instances in Scripture in which worship takes place in a musical environment. The first is in reference to to Hezekiah's reign. Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the LORD with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped. (II Chronicles 29.30) The second is a more generic reference in Psalm 66.4. All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.
It is not hard to understand why these two are connected occasionally. Much of the music sung in the Old Testament as in the New is not just about God; it is actually directed to God. When such words are taken seriously the singer is actually voicing a musical prayer. Since it is in prayer that we meet God, and since so much of musical prayer is direct praise to God we can easily see how such musical prayer and praise becomes worship.
The sixth connection point is holiness. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. (Psalm 29.2) The idea here is that I cannot worship God if I am not right with Him. My soul and spirit must be squared away before I can approach Him and give Him the worship He deserves.
Saul was Israel's first king. He began well and ended badly. As things began to deteriorate toward the end he violated the sanctity of the priestly role. When Samuel called him on it Saul responded Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD. (I Samuel 15.25) We can debate whether Saul was genuinely repentant here but we cannot debate the truth of what he uttered: we cannot worship God unless our hearts are rightly related to him in obedience. Worship is not a mere external, physical action in which I bow my knee or my face to the ground. No, worship takes place first and foremost in the heart. That heart must be yielded to Him in every known area if it is to worship Him in a way that is acceptable to Him.
So far in the first three weeks of this series on worship I have focused on what worship is and what accompanies it. Next week I will shift that. I will describe how worship changes from the Old Testament to the New Testament, for it does, and dramatically so. The last two weeks of this series I will discuss how that shift in worship has a direct bearing on twenty first century American Christianity and its concept of church.